Winter Reminiscences- Favorite Delhi Moment

on Friday, December 16, 2011

Delhi is a city for the romantics! Whether the Victorian air which greets you as you enter its heart in Connaught Place or the priceless remnants of Mughal and Sultanate architecture which grant it the haunting, old world feel- Delhi will offer you numerous picturesque backgrounds to write your story against. All it needs is the explorer in you, which wants to indulge in its deep set history, and usurp those facets- tangible and intangible- of Delhi life, which grant it its distinct charm. I am, veritably, in love with Delhi! And why not- this is the city which makes me the incorrigible romantic that I am, by giving me such moments which become fond, indelible beauties on the canvass of my memories.

A pity it is, that despite having spent my whole life here, I have primarily explored the city through books and internet. Growing up constraints. But independence brought with it the coveted opportunity of actually going out and understanding and appreciating the city in all its hues. So then, whether it was the monuments, the food, the culture, or the people- I reached out to all that I knew made Delhi special. And this time, the smells, the touches, the emotions, the tastes, the smiles, the textures, the colors- they were all exclusively mine to savour.

Past year was especially brilliant for me, as far as exploring Delhi is concerned. It was a little slow too, because I thought I had discovered my favorites in the city. Janpath, Dargah of Nizam-ud-din Auliya, North Campus alleys, SDA Market Coffee shops, Lotus Temple, Taj CCD, inter alia, top my list of favorite Delhi hang outs. But a decisive winner made its way to the top of this list in October this year. With my best friend in Delhi, and a cooperative weather to make me smile, I thought I might not get a better chance of visiting this one place in Central Delhi I had always wanted to explore. Agrasen Ki Baoli. For those of us who are in love with Mayank Austen Soofi's Delhi diaries, we cannot not know about this place. But visiting it in person is an altogether different experience. And this I discovered on the 19th of October, 2011- what I also like to remember as my favorite Delhi moment from this year.

We reached there early morning. Me and this extremely special friend of mine. Situated a little further up on a small detour off the Hailey road (near Kasturba Gandhi Marg)- one which you are most likely to miss- Agrasen Ki Baoli is not an easy to find monument for first timers. But a cooperative autowallah, content to receive 30 bucks for a 25 rupees worth of journey from Rajiv Chowk, helped us locate it in no time. An unmistakable mustiness greeted us as we stared down the 104 steps of this Baoli. As we later learned from each other, my friend and I resolved almost in our first glimpse down the steps to be back here, back whenever we felt like escaping the pace of life, back whenever we thought serenity would not come so cheap to us at any other place.

Baoli-literally a stepwell. Stepwells were constructed by ancient and medieval rulers as respite zones from scorching heat of Indian summers. There are some more in Delhi, but this one is known to be the most charming. As you will figure out when you visit, the plaque outside its entrance declares it as 'Ugrasen Ki Baoli', but common nomenclature replaces the 'U' with an 'A' to alter the eponymous ruler's identity who is credited to have built this stepwell. At its sides are built some mysteriously inviting niches and chambers, and a staired passageway which leads you to the very top of the reservoir which has now dried up completely. Its popularity and maintenance are both poor. Not many people frequent the place, and in the close to three hours we spent there, it was mostly college students who came, descended to the base of the stairs, and then left as quickly as they came.

We sat around for a long time. It was just very peaceful. Seemed like the perfect place to think, to slow down, and to have a heart-to-heart conversation. When you climb down to a sufficiently low level, you can see just the CP skyline merging with the ancient stones of the Baoli. Nothing else of the concrete world is visible. You feel like you are in two different eras at the same time. Your ambitions want to see you ascend to the top of those tall buildings, your emotions want to restrain you to the tranquility this musty, stagnant well has to offer. Ennui can sometimes be pleasing. And satisfying.

My reverie was broken by the thoughtful look on the face of my friend. Something told me that what I am about to share with this really special friend of mine now is going to be entrenched in my memory forever. I was not wrong. He is a friend I like to call my own; but complications and complacency had both crept in to portend a ruin for perhaps the most special relationship I have nurtured over the past few years. May be it was the feel of being in a time warp, may be it was the calming lull of the surroundings- something enabled me to confess my fears and sadness to him from behind a blur of tears. Some intimate thoughts were then shared. Some dreams, some responsibilities reminded. We went home with a better understanding of each other. We went home a little happier.

A friend, some tears, some words. Delhi's old world beauty in the background. Does one need more to live that cherished, loved, special moment?